Rachel, writing

All things novelling-related as I embark on my self-publishing adventure

Traditional Route or Self-Publishing?

When I started writing The Syndrome Diaries back in 2010, my ambition was to hone it until it was as good as I could make it, then find a publishing house willing to take it on. Realistic? It no longer matters because in those two years there’s been a revolution. We’ve already seen it happen in music, and the written word seems set to go the same way.

I’m talking about new technology. I’m not sure that the old technology will disappear completely, particularly for coffee-table books and diagram-filled textbooks, but the way we consume books is changing at an incredible pace and marketing plans need to take account of that shift.

The third ‘P’ of marketing is Place, and it’s all about sales channels. Do I want my book to be downloaded from Amazon? In the window of my local bookshop? In the racks at every airport branch of W H Smiths? At the moment, I’d answer yes to all three. However, for a hard copy print to appear through a traditional publisher takes years – literally – if I’m one of the privileged few to have work accepted. Think of the surge in ebook reading in the last two years. What will happen in the next two?

The traditional route takes time – time finding an agent, time for the novel to be pitched to publishers, time for it to be edited and prepared for publication – and the novel could fail at any stage and possibly never be published. Is it worth pursuing the traditional route for its professional input when that input is so difficult to secure?

Self-publishing isn’t a simple option if it’s to be done well. As with any sales channel, there is a large element that I will be unable to influence, and once my novel is launched there are no guarantees that people will like it and want to buy it. Nevertheless, self-publishing gives me control in the weeks and months running up to that point, and as the publishing industry is so unpredictable at the moment, that autonomy is important to me. There are plenty of people out there with ereaders – and it’s my plan to give them something special to download.

Do you have an ereader?

Do you still buy hard copy books?

What makes you choose a particular format?

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5 thoughts on “Traditional Route or Self-Publishing?

  1. To be honest I still prefer hard copies, but if I ever get a tablet, Kindle or anything of that sort I may start looking into e-books. I don’t own any of those, and reading from a computer screen can get pretty tiring.

    • I know what you mean; I was reading a book by someone at my writer’s group and could only access it as an on-screen pdf which was awkward to read. He’s emailed me an rtf so that I can format it for my Kindle – much easier. Before I had the Kindle, I used the Kindle and iBooks apps on my iPod, and they’re certainly preferable to a computer screen.

  2. I’m getting ready to query–again–and even though I’ve been down this road a couple of times I am still more inclined to go the traditional publishing route. I don’t own an e-reader. I still love reading a real book. They smell awesome! I also prefer hard copies to own, but I’ll read the soft cover copies if that’s what’s available.

  3. I love hardbacks and softbacks, but have to admit I love my e-reader more for fiction. I haven’t had it that long, but I do quite a bit of travelling and it’s wonderful to be able to take a selection of books with me and not have to worry about baggage allowances (normally that’s where I’d have to cut down my luggage!). I find it really comfortable to use, particularly for reading in bed. However, I have reference books full of tables and diagrams that an e-reader wouldn’t handle well – and unfortunately they tend to be the heaviest ones!

  4. What’s changed is the cost-structure of how books are published; e-publishing makes it possible for anybody to do it. But in a sense, self-publishing, really, is no different from trad – in that the same principles of content and quality still apply if the work is to be well received by a wide audience. The book has to be high quality, meet certain standards, and be marketable into the intended audience. The way to get there is also much the same, in the sense of getting the necessay expertise in to design, produce, market and so forth.

    The likely outcome of the e-revolution will certainly be a shift in how we read books – the ‘airport paperbacks’ will almost certainly migrate to e-readers. Coffee-table books? As you say, probably not. But in any event, I think the old criteria of quality and production will always give any book an edge – and in an environment where anybody can publish anything, and the key criteria is discovery (which happens by repute and word-of-mouth) the self-publishers who go that quality route will be the ones who float to the top.

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